Language matters when writing Intended Learning Outcomes. The verb you use in an ILO is critical. This is not just 'nit‐picking' but is an essential principle because the verb indicates the type of learning required e.g. 'list' as opposed to 'explain'.

All learning outcomes must:

  • Use an active verb to describe a behaviour that demonstrates the student’s learning
  • Contain information about the context for demonstration
  • Be written in the future tense
  • Use clear language easily understandable to students (it’s good practice to work with students to find a shared language).

This may cover

  • the terminology of the subject
  • criteria
  • specific facts
  • methodology
  • conventions
  • principles and generalisations
  • trends and sequences
  • theories and structures.
  • classifications and categories

Some verbs which may help:

recall reproduce name recount
record define outline present
list repeat state match



This covers what a learner understands through how they are able to convey it.

Some verbs which may help:

restate locate explain report
identify recognise tell review
discuss express clarify translate
describe interpret



This covers the learner's ability to use a theory or information in a new situation.

Some verbs which may help:

exemplify dramatise practise employ
schedule sketch illustrate interpret
operate apply act a role use

This covers the ability to break down material/ideas into constituent parts, showing how they relate to each other and how they are organised.

Some verbs which may help:

distinguish inspect compare critique
differentiate calculate inventory solve
investigate test experiment examine
analyse debate contrast analyse
appraise relate question chart

This may include the ability to work with elements, parts of something and combine them in a way which constitutes a pattern, plan or structure which was not there before.

Some verbs which may help:

compose assemble derive modify
synthesise manage propose plam
develop design create construct
arrange set up establish forumlate
devise build up redefine teach

This is the ability to construct an argument, compare opposing arguments, make judgements, and draw conclusions.

Some verbs which may help:

judge evaluate choose revise
appraise justify estimate challenge
score rate value defend
select assess measure discriminate
critique compare prioritise draw conclusions